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The Archivist: Giving thanks, talking Sooner football behind bars in 1913

Just like today, nontraditional Thanksgiving celebrations in 1913 included talk of football. This November 1913 front page of The Daily Oklahoman previewed the Thanksgiving Day game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Colorado. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Just like today, nontraditional Thanksgiving celebrations in 1913 included talk of football. This November 1913 front page of The Daily Oklahoman previewed the Thanksgiving Day game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Colorado. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

The recent coronavirus increase has caused a change in many traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. Instead of friends and family gathering for feasting and football, there is downsizing, social distancing and videocalls.

This story from The Daily Oklahoman on Nov. 28, 1913, described a nontraditional Thanksgiving Day:

"Thanksgiving day behind prison bars may not sound very pleasant to those on the outside, but to the sixty-six prisoners in the city and county jails Thanksgiving meant all that the name implies. In the first place it meant a genuine old-fashion Thanksgiving dinner, including roast turkey with all the 'fixins,' and while the service may not have been of the highest order the food was, and the prisoners did full justice to the good things the sheriff and jailors provided.

"After dinner the prisoners were given the freedom of the corridors to do pretty much as they liked for the remainder of the day. While some of the men smoked and played cards, the majority of them congregated in groups to discuss the chances of Oklahoma against Colorado in the football game. And while none of the men had seen the teams they were as familiar with the line-up and the standing of the individual players as the most enthusiastic rooter for either of the teams.

"In fact, the only regret the prisoners expressed was the fact that they could not see the game. The general feeling, as one of them expressed it, was, 'that we would serve an extra week if we could only see that game.'

"'I bet you' was frequently heard. Whether any bets were really made could not be ascertained, but the spirit was there all the same … taken all in all, with the excitement of the game and the turkey dinner the city's guests had about a pleasant a Thanksgiving as many of their more fortunate brothers on the outside."

In front of a crowd of about 4,000, the University of Oklahoma football team soundly beat the University of Colorado, 14-3.

This year, while our Thanksgiving celebrations may be different, there is still much to be thankful for.

If you would like to contact Mary Phillips about The Archivist, email her at gapnmary@gmail.com

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